I’m in a pretty good place in my recovery and life in general these days, have been for several months now. My stress, anxiety, depression and self hatred are at an all time low, I am genuinely happy and thankful for the breath in my body most of the time, I have an AMAZING support system and I’m the least out-of-control I’ve ever been around food.
But old habits die hard and when I find myself in situations in which food used to be my comfort, I sometimes find myself defaulting to old behaviors without even thinking about it; or especially because I’m not thinking about it. Auto pilot is so much easier than intentional, mindful action. Without even formulating an actual thought about it, every fiber of my old self remembers how comforting this old behavior is. After all, it wasn’t my safety blanked for 25 years because it didn’t do anything for my limbic system.
Once my cells are reminded of why I was addicted to this behavior in the first place, I start to crave the comfort it used to give me. (**Spoiler alert** it doesn’t actually provide the same comfort anymore, but remembering that part takes a little more active thought.) THIS is a critical point for me. My disorder wants me to keep this craving to myself. My shame only wants people to see my recovery side, only see me moving forward, never backwards. This is when toddler logic kicks in: if nobody sees me doing it, then it didn’t really happen.
When I start to catch myself hiding food or wrappers, or waiting for my husband to go to bed to eat the thing that’s been calling my name, keeping secrets, I know it’s time to tell on myself and ask for support, because the shame of engaging in disordered behavior is only compounded by the shame of hiding and lying about it. And when the secret gets to be too big and the shame gets to be too much, I become less and less likely/willing/able to tell somebody and more and more likely to keep using the same behavior to make myself feel better about it (hello circular reasoning). Keeping my eating disorder and consequent behaviors a secret has a direct effect on my inability to stop them.
It’s a good best-practice to make a list of all the behaviors that are definitely eating disordered for you, as well as a list of borderline behaviors that might not be directly disordered, but might be warning signs. For example, for me, sneaking food or hiding wrappers doesn’t necessarily mean I’m bingeing, but it’s a slippery slope. Other things that are borderline behaviors for me are frequent weighing, skipping meals, planning/ideating/talking about restrictive meal plans for weight-loss (because-spoiler alert- these almost always lead to rebound bingeing and weight gain) and isolating. Being aware of behaviors that might be benign for others, but are problematic for me, helps me notice and address them as soon they creep back in, before they can take over my life again.
I have the tools and the support to stop these thoughts and behaviors when they come up, but only if I am honest about them with myself, my higher power, and my tribe. These are the times when I need to be reminded that I am not in this alone and that there is no shame in imperfection. We all step backwards occasionally. This doesn’t make us bad, or unworthy. It doesn’t undo all the work and progress we have made. It’s an opportunity to check in and decide where we go from here.